Malpa Young Doctors for Life Program

Introducing Malpa’s Young Doctors for Life Program: A community-centred approach to achieving strong health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

ASLM is excited to announce our collaboration with Malpa and their Young Doctors for Life Program! Malpa was founded to address the vast inequality in health between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. They do this by enabling communities to take charge of their own health and education outcomes; creating transformative health change. Malpa’s Young Doctors Project is a unique, innovative, culturally derived, community centred approach to achieving strong health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and contributes to reconciliation.

We have a boy who lives in a group home and before coming to Malpa he didn’t attend classes much. But now, every Monday, he asks his aid “Is Malpa on the Friday?”. He would ask Mel (another Leader) on a Tuesday, and then every Friday morning he would be the first one – he would run through the door – and just to watch him excel over the fifteen weeks was wonderful. (Leader)

Malpa program rationale
Malpa Young Doctors for Life Program

Young Doctors For Life

For thousands of years the Ngangkari – the traditional Aboriginal healers in Central Australia – have passed on their skills to young children. The idea of children being “doctors” is deeply embedded in Indigenous culture and life. Now this idea is getting a new injection of life with the Young Doctors project. The project employs respected community members to teach the traditional ways and the contemporary ways of creating healthy communities.

The young people become health leaders to their younger peers and their community. This helps create stronger communities and even opens up career pathways in health. In each area, the local language is used. In Utopia it’s Umbarkalya Doctors, in Dunghutti Country it’s Dhalayi Doctors. They are taught by respected members of the communities, including Elders, over a fun-packed but structured program. The Young Doctors act as health ambassadors for their communities, particularly their peers. “The best thing about this is that it puts Aboriginal people in charge of their own situation”, says Dr Howard Goldenberg, whose extensive experience in remote communities has fuelled his passion for practical solutions to the challenging situations he has encountered. The Young Doctors work in schools in the ACT, NSW, NT, SA and VIC in communities that have high Aboriginal populations and have invited Malpa to work with them to enable healthier and more positive futures. Their understanding of primary schools and curriculum and ability to build trusting and collaborative relationships means that The Young Doctors become part of the fabric of the schools.

One of our Young Doctors is a selective mute – he doesn’t speak much to adults at school. But in Young Doctors he joins in everything and when we are out in the Aboriginal Health Garden he becomes very animated. He loves that hands-on learning in the open air and even takes on a leadership role helping other kids and showing them stuff. (Leader)

Why Malpa and ASLM

In Malpa’s work, ASLM recognises the core elements of Lifestyle Medicine. This initiative acknowledges the social determinants of health and focuses on core pillars of Lifestyle Medicine such as nutrition, social connection and health literacy.

Aligning ourselves with Malpa provides ASLM with an exciting opportunity to connect our members to local Malpa groups to support health literacy and promote a greater understanding of Lifestyle Medicine; connect Malpa groups with ASLM health practitioners who recognise the importance of culturally appropriate models of care that engage the community and are keen to help them scale their work in new areas; connect Malpa graduates with career pathways in the health sector; and partner on grants and tenders to help grow the Lifestyle Medicine movement.

We are asking members to help ASLM in supporting the amazing work of Malpa by getting involved in a local group or simply by learning more about a great initiative and spreading the word. If you know of other initiatives that embody the principles of Lifestyle Medicine and are achieving great outcomes, please let us know.